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Brenda Carol

A major jazz singer and educator based in Toronto, Brenda Carol has built an important career that has touched the ears and hearts of a countless number of listeners and young singers. Her open-minded approach has found her often interpreting songs drawn from the rock, pop and folk music worlds, transforming them through improvisations and arrangements into jazz without losing their essence, while also performing her own highly personal versions of jazz standards.

Born in Sudbury (a small town in Ontario), she grew up in nearby Brantford, which is in a very rural area. “I had a lot of time to listen,” she remembers. “ Toronto was the big city that I would visit to go see concerts.” Brenda sang often as a child, took piano lessons from age nine, and played saxophone in school. She switched her focus from tenor sax to voice when one of her high school music teachers began to offer singing ensemble lessons. “The teacher regularly introduced jazz songs to me. I did not appreciate them that much then but I learned them and later on it really helped me because I knew so many songs.”

Brenda at the time was much more into progressive rock, including the music of Genesis and Yes. At 17 she began singing with a rock band and was soon performing all across Ontario, often singing backup in rock and folk groups. At York University she earned a degree in psychology (working with the handicapped) while minoring in music. She sang with the Moors, which she describes as a bit like “Peter, Paul and Mary meets the Stranglers.” She also had a progressive folk trio, CinderBloc Garden, that had unusual instrumentation including bassoon and Moog. An important turning point in her career occurred when she met Max Roach. She took a long bus trip with friends to Chicago to attend a blues festival only to find it rained out. At Joe Segal’s jazz club, she caught Roach’s quartet for two nights and met the great drummer. “After asking me to sing for him, he suggested that I sing jazz, saying that he thought I could be a jazz singer.”

Eventually Brenda took Roach’s advice. She had always been drawn to jazz a bit due to its spontaneity, improvising and openness. In the mid- 1990s she co-organized ClaireVoyance, a progressive jazz ensemble that, in addition to standards, sometimes takes its material from unlikely sources (such as the songbooks of Joni Mitchell and Stephen Stills) and turns the songs into jazz. ClaireVoyance has featured many top Canadian players through the years including Brenda’s husband pianist Stephen Gardner and, for the past decade, flutist Bill McBirnie. In 2005, Brenda performed a few special concerts with ClaireVoyance that featured the group performing the music of Yes. “We gave the Yes songs jazz solos, altering some of the pieces to become jazzier, and jamming them out pretty far.” She also performs duets with Stephen Gardner as Oui. The duo has gained attention for its ability to perform very difficult compositions.

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"Brenda Carol is one of the finest jazz vocalists singing today." - Lee Prosser, JazzReview.com

"Jazz musicians who also have roots in progressive rock, especially the music of Yes, seem a very unlikely prospect, but with vocalist Brenda Carol, pianist Stephen Gardner, and their group ClaireVoyance, this is what we have, and it works beautifully. Make no mistake, this is a "real" jazz group, using acoustic instruments,... and not playing fusion or any of that watered-down "cool" stuff." - Bill Martin, associate professor of philosophy, DePaul University, Chicago author of Music of Yes and Listening to the future

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Primary Instrument

Voice / vocals



Willing to teach

Beginner to advanced


* Bachelor of Arts, Psychology York University, Toronto, ON Canada

* 28 years of formal and private study: vocal, guitar, theory and piano.

* Instruments: voice, guitar, clarinet, flute, tenor saxophone, piano, and percussion.

Professional Experience:

* Producer and professional recording artist - Independent Releases: "brenda carol" 1998 and "Live At HotHouse Cafe" 2000 (see discography)

* Songwriter, music composer, artistic director, musician, event organizer.

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Album Discography

Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Brenda Carol &...

Darwyn Records


Brenda Carol

Darwyn Records



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